The devotion to the Virgin Mary is present since the beginning of the Christian Church. The Gospel shows the particular attention that Jesus had with his mother. It also shows the love and respect that the Apostles were required to have towards her after receiving the maternal mission in the Calvary.
From the ancient times, the holy Virgin was venerated as the Mother of God. The Marian cult has a very particular and special character. None of the known images reproduced the true face of Mary but they show a path to get to her gaining her help and protection. The Marian Route possesses in its sanctuaries five of these representations of Mary, the mother of God. They are five of the most venerated and well known images in the Christian world.
The Marian devotion to Our Lady of the Pillar
The devotion to the Virgin of the Pillar is so deeply-rooted among the Spaniards and for so long that the Holy See allowed the establishment of the “Oficio del Pilar”. In this oficio the apparition of the Virgin of the Pillar is recorded as an “antique and devoted belief”. According to an old tradition, the arrival of Virgin Mary in mortal flesh to Zaragoza is the origin of the Sanctuary and its devotion. As per this tradition, the Apostle James was in Cesaraugusta (currently Saragossa) preaching the Gospel. Faced with people´s disbelieves, Saint James got discouraged. In such a difficult times, he saw Virgin Mary who came to comfort him and to renew his spirit. The Holy Virgin gave James the Pillar, a veined marble column in which her image stands today, as a symbol of the strength that his faith should have. Virgin Mary asked James to build a temple using the column she brought as foundation, becoming the first Marian temple in the Christianity.
The Marian devotion to Our Lady of Torreciudad
The devotion to Virgin of Torreciudad is very old in the near villages and towns. The old hermitage is the origin of this devotion since the 11th century. At that time, people arrived to Torreciudad asking for favors, thanking Virgin Mary o just to show their love to this representation of Virgin Mary. This habit has been transmitted generation after generation, keeping the faith alive, arriving in pilgrimages to this place in order to pray to Virgin Mary while trusting her with theirs joys and sorrows. The hermitage where the image was kept is located in a hill over River Cinca.
The Marian devotion to Our Lady of Montserrat
Although the devotion to Virgin of Montserrat is most likely older, history says that in the 9th century there was a hermitage on the mountain dedicated to Virgin Mary. Legend tells that in 880 some young shepherds saw while hearing a beautiful melody a great light coming down from the sky. The light stopped in the middle of the mountain. A week later they came back with their families and they saw the same thing. It happened one more time in presence of the parish priest. The Manrresa bishop, knowledgeable of the events, wanted to see it in person. Not only the bishop saw the image of Virgin Mary inside a cave, as all the people that came with him saw the same thing. They all tried to take the image to Manresa in procession, but the image became heavier as they leave becoming impossible to move it. The interpretation of this fact by the bishop was that Virgin Mary wished to remain in that place, so he ordered the construction of a chapel to Mary, as he had to be venerated on the Montserrat Mountain.
The Marian devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes
The devotion to the Virgin of Lourdes has its origin in a person and in a chain of events that took place in the French village of Lourdes on the bank of river Gave. On February 1858 a shining figure of a young woman appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a 14 years old girl who was picking up wood in the forest. This shining woman was calling her. Surprised, Bernadette kneeled and started to pray, as she could not understand what she was seeing. The figure disappeared to re appear again a few days later. There were up to 18 apparitions between February 11 and July 16 of that same year. These events caused an immediate arrival of faithful and people from everywhere to the exact place where the apparitions took place.
The marian devotion to Our Lady of Meritxell
We can assure that the devotion towards Our Lady of Meritxell comes from the time where the old Romanesque church was built and also from the time where the old Virgin carving was dated. Since we do not have previous documentation about the devotion, we cannot confirm its previous existence; however, the origins of the devotion towards the virgin of Meritxell could come from a previous time.
In addition to these tangible elements, there is also an intangible element that comes from the people´s knowledge and that it has been transmitted through tales and legends. In the case of Meritxell, there is a pretty story that tells how a shepherd who went from Encamp to Canillo to attend the mass of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ (January 6th), found a wood carving of Our Lady on the side of the road. This image was placed under a bloomed rose bush. It was more a view that could be found on Spring, that something that you would find on winter time. This was the reason that cough his attention and made the shepherd pay attention to the image.
He informed about what he had seen to the priest of Canillo. Then the image of the Virgin was placed in the high altar of the church of Canillo. The image disappeared without explanation during the night. At first, people thought that the image was stolen. However, they got news saying that the virgin was found again under the rose bush. The image was then taken to the church of Encamp, thinking that this was the Virgin´s wish. However, just as it happened the previous night, the image disappeared, appearing again on the feet of the rose bush. Due to this, the faithful people of those lands decided to build a new church in Meritxell (just in the same spot where she had appeared), understanding that this was the true whish of the Mother.
The Virgin of Meritxell is known as a protective mother. The artist who carved the image shows her as modest and humble woman in spite of being the queen of Heaven. And the faithful look at her as a guide in their day to day life.